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Bruce J. Malina 1933-2017

Bruce.cmalinaThe sad news reached me today that Prof. Bruce J. Malina died yesterday, Aug. 17, at dawn, US time. Malina was professor emeritus at Creighton University, Omaha, USA.

Prof. Malina will probably be remembered by most as one of those who introduced Social Anthropology, or Cultural Anthropology as he called it, into New Testament studies. His books on The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (John Knox Press, 1981 and later), his Christian Origins and Cultural Anthropology. Practical Models for Biblical Interpretation (John Knox Press, 1986), and his (together with Jerome H. Neyrey), Portraits of Paul. An Archaeology of Ancient Personality (Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), are great works that made Social Scientific ways of thinking (along cultural anthropology lines) both relevant and common in New Testament studies. Think about it, who, if any, knew and applied the models of Honor and Shame, Dyadic Personality, Limited Good etc in New Testament studies before they read Malina? When at the peak of his strength-and popularity- he published a flow of articles and books on New Testament Issues. He got a lot of followers, and a group focusing on these issues, the Context Group , was formed in 1986, and is still active (see also here). In 2001 he was honored by a Festschrift: John J. Pilch, ed., Social Scientific Models for Interpreting the Bible.  Biblical Interpretation Series, SBL, Atlanta, 2001, and a bibliography 1967-1999 of his works is available here.

As for my own part, I met prof Malina in 1987, when being a Fulbright professor at the University of Oslo, he visited the University of Trondheim to present some of his work there, and to discuss my own work as a research fellow there. There and then he introduced me to the world of Mediterranean Social anthropology, and in particular to the model of ‘establisment violence/vigilantism’ which I later applied in my PhD dissertation. I remember him as very kind, helpful and genuinely interested in my work, but also as very self-conscious about his work.

In his later years he cherished some unconventional ideas about present day Israelis, Israel and the Palestinian problem. To some extent this might also have influenced some views in his scholarly works.

But I cherish the memories of a Bruce Malina as a scholar who did New Testament studies a great service in introducing issues from Mediterranean social anthropology. The study of the social world of the New Testament, and even of the Bible as a whole, received insights through his works that we all now take for granted.




L.W. Hurtado in Oslo

Hurtado290816mfThe seminar at MF Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo, mentioned in an earlier posting, found place today. As it was in honor of the New Testament professor Reidar Hvalvik, it was good to see both former and present colleagues and not a few students being present.

The first main speaker was Larry W. Hurtado, prof.em. at Divinity School, University of Edinburgh (see picture). His topic was An Early Christian Book and its Story: P45 as Early Christian Artefact. Hurtado presented and characterized the P45, then discussed its importance for 4 different aspects of early Christianity; 1) the importance that it contains the four (now) canonical gospels, 2) the placement or location of Acts in the collection, 3) the codex format used, and then 4) the importance of p45 for its use of nomina sacra.

Then there were two other lectures (Professor Kristin Bliksrud Aavitsland (MF):Representations of Church and the Synagogue in Ecclesiastical Art, and  Postdoc. Dr. Ole Jakob Filtvedt (MF): Picturing the Father in the Gospel of John?). What I found particular interesting here was a picture shown by Aavitsland, of Christ carrying his cross in form of a tree (cf. Deutr 21:23; Gal. 3:13). I have never seen that before!  That may be due to my lack of knowledge of art, but, nevertheless, or in particular for that reason- interesting to me!   🙂

Nice day in the auditorium!   Congratulations to Prof. Hvalvik!



Prof. dr. Reidar Hvalvik 65

Upcoming Monday, Aug 29th, there will be a held a seminar (symposium) at the Norwegian School of Theology (Menighetsfakultetet) in honor of prof. dr. Reidar Hvalvik, who has reached the age of 65.

The theme of the gathering will be: Picturing the New Testament, and the international  (non-Norwegian) lecturer will be Larry W. Hurtado:

10.30–11.00       Professor Karl Olav Sandnes (MF): Reidar Hvalvik – a presentation

11.00–11.45       Emeritus professor Larry W. Hurtado (University of Edinburg): An Early Christian Book and its Story: P45 as Early Christian Artefact

11.45–12.45       Lunch.

12.45–13.30       Professor Kristin Bliksrud Aavitsland (MF):Representations of Church and the Synagogue in Ecclesiastical Art

13.30–14.00       Coffee/tee

14.00–14.45       Postdoc. Dr. Ole Jakob Filtvedt (MF): Picturing the Father in the Gospel of John?

14.45–15.00       Summary, thanks etc.

Were the Gospels originally anonymous?

Sometimes it is fun to play with ideas, and fun to play with common accepted standpoints, whether of so-called ‘common’ knowledge, or ideas prevalent and generally accepted in much research. If no-one dares to plays with ideas, challenge them, maybe even turn them up-side-down, there will be little progress in research.

Some ideas about the origins of the New Testament Gospels are more widely accepted then others, that is, more generally accepted, even though you can always find deviating, or better, opposing positions.

The idea or standpoint that the NT gospels are, even though they by now wear titles, originally anonymous gospels; that is, that they were issued, having no authorial names attached to them, are one such idea.

Most lay people, and some conservative theologians, takes the names like ‘Gospel according Matthew’, Mark, Luke, or John as genuine authorial statements; but many don’t. It seems to be an accepted dogma in scholarly circles that the titles are later additions…

However, Brant Pitre has now published a little book in which in which he challenges the common scholarly opinion, arguing that the names Matthew, Mark. Luke and John may in fact be references to the ‘real’ authors of the Gospels.

Dr. Brant Pitre, Professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary, in New Orleans, Louisiana – has come up with a book that challenges many of the more common conceptions about the origins of the gospels:

Brant Pitre, The Case for Jesus. The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ (Image, 2016)

I wont say I buy all he is trying to argue in this book, but it is an enjoyable and refreshing reading – so far, but I haven’t read all yet. But have a look at the arguments he presents in favor for the view that the Gospels were in fact not anonymous.

But first, the mainline view of the anonymity of the Gospels:

First, according to this theory, all four Gospels were originally published without any titles or headings identifying the authors.

Second, all four Gospels supposedly circulated without any titles for almost a century before anyone attributed them to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.

Third, it was only much later— sometime after the disciples of Jesus were dead and buried— that the titles were finally added to the manuscripts.

Fourth and finally, and perhaps most significant of all, according to this theory, because the Gospels were originally anonymous, it is reasonable to conclude that none of them was actually written by an eyewitness.

Then, we have the counterarguments of prof. Pitre:

“The first and perhaps biggest problem for the theory of the anonymous Gospels is this: no anonymous copies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John have ever been found. They do not exist. As far as we know, they never have. . . . When it comes to the titles of the Gospels, not only the earliest and best manuscripts, but all of the ancient manuscripts— without exception, in every language— attribute the four Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 14.” *

“Second, notice that there is some variation in the form of the titles (for example, some of the later manuscripts omit the word “Gospel”). However, as New Testament scholar Michael Bird notes, there is “absolute uniformity” in the authors to whom each of the books is attributed.”

“Third— and this is important— notice also that the titles are present in the most ancient copies of each Gospel we possess, including the earliest fragments, known as papyri (from the papyrus leaves of which they were made). For example, the earliest Greek manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew contains the title “The Gospel according to Matthew” (Greek euangelion kata Matthaion) (Papyrus 4). Likewise, the oldest Greek copy of the beginning of the Gospel of Mark starts with the title “The Gospel according to Mark” (Greek euangelion kata Markon).”

“The second major problem with the theory of the anonymous Gospels is the utter implausibility that a book circulating around the Roman Empire without a title for almost a hundred years could somehow at some point be attributed to exactly the same author by scribes throughout the world and yet leave no trace of disagreement in any manuscripts. 20 And, by the way, this is supposed to have happened not just once, but with each one of the four Gospels.”

“Finally, if things happened the way the anonymous theory proposes, then why aren’t some copies attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, but other copies attributed to someone else— for instance, Andrew, or Peter, or Jude? If the Gospels really got their titles from scribes falsely adding them to manuscripts up to a century later, we would expect to find both (1) anonymous copies— which, as we’ve already seen, don’t exist— as well as (2) contradictory titles, with some scribes attributing one copy of a Gospel to Matthew and another attributing the same Gospel to Peter or Jesus or whomever.”

“In short, the theory of the anonymous Gospels suffers not only from a lack of manuscript evidence but also from a lack of logic. It simply does not pass muster when it comes to basic criteria of historical plausibility.”

These are the main arguments of prof. Pitre in chapter 2 of his book; if your are interested in the rest of his arguments, get the book; it is available in paper as well as in a Kindle edition.

*(I’m sorry, I have no exact page references as I use a Kindle version)




Philo dinner…

It has become a recurring tradition that some evening during the SBL Annual Meeting, Philo scholars are invited to participate in an evening dinner session in some nearby restaurant. Thus, in this way following the traditions of Philo about the sociality in dining together, ‘old’ and ‘new’ Philo scholars can meet and socialize over a good meal. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them).

Here are some pictures from this year’s dinner session:

Ready for the symposium: The menue has arrived..

Discussing the menues……

Albert Geljon, Annewies van den Hoek and David T. Runia.


Ronald Cox, the symposiarchos, and David T. Runia. 🙂

Some updates to RPBS

I have added some links to my Resource Pages for Biblical Studies; the following have been added:

  • Link to Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint
  • Link to the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library
  • Link to David Lincicum’s blog.

Links to some more scholars writing on Philo:

  • Courtney Friesen
  • David Lincicum
  • Horacio Vela
  • Sami Yli-Karjanmaa
  • Justin Rogers
  • Angela Standhartinger
  • Pura Nieto Hernandez


John H. Elliott 80!


One of those scholars whose writings I have enjoyed reading the most is John H. Elliott. He is a pleasant person, and his writings rank high on my list; his commentary to 1 Peter is truly magnificent! But his writings in the fields of social science have also proved themselves influential and rewarding to read.

Today, Oct 23., he can celebrate his 80th birthday.

Happy Birthday wishes from from Norway.


A selected bibliography is given below:

Elliott, J. H. 1979 1 Peter: Estrangement and Community, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press.

Elliott, J. H. 1981 A Home for the Homeless: A Sociological Exegesis of 1 Peter, Its Situation and Strategy, Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Elliott, J. H. 1982 ‘Salutation and Exhortation to Christian Behavior on the Basis of God’s Blessings (1 [Peter] 1:1-2:10’), RevExp 79/3: 415-25.

Elliott, J. H. 1983 ‘The Roman Provinance of 1 Peter and the Gospel of Mark: A Response to David Dungan’, in Bruce Corely (ed.) Colloquy on New Testament Studies: A Time for Reappraisal and Fresh Approaches, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 182-94.

Elliott, J.H., 1990, A home for the homeless: A social-scientific criticism of I Peter, its situation and strategy, with a new introduction, Fortress, Minneapolis.

Elliott, J. H. 1985 ‘Backward and Foreward “In His Steps”: Following Jesus from Rome to Raymond and Beyond. The Tradition, Redaction, and Reception of 1 Peter 2:18-24’, in Fernando F. Segovia (ed.) Discipleship in the New Testament, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 184-209.

Elliott, J.H., 1986, ‘Social-scientific criticism of the New Testament and its social world: More on method and models’, in J.H. Elliott (ed.), Social-scientific criticism of the New Testament and its social world, Semeia 35, pp. 1–33, Scholars Press, Decatur.

Elliott, J. H. 1986 ‘1 Peter, Its Situation and Strategy: A Discussion with David Balch’, in Charles H. Talbert (ed.) Perspectives on First Peter, National Association of Baptist Progessors of Religion Special Studies Series, 9, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 61-78.

Elliott, J. H. 1987 ‘Patronage and Clientism in Early Christian Society: A Short Reading Guide’,Forum 3/4: 39-48.

Elliott, J.H., 1988, ‘The fear of the leer. The evil eye from the Bible to Li’l Abner’, Forum 4(4), 42–71.

Elliott, J.H., 1990, ‘Paul, Galatians, and the evil eye’, Currents in Theology and Mission 17, 262–73.

Elliott, J.H. 1991 ‘Household and Meals vs. Temple Purity: Replication Patterns in Luke-Acts’,BTB 21: 102-8 = Hervormde Teologiese Studies 47/2: 386-99.

Elliott, J.H., 1991, ‘The evil eye in the first testament: The ecology and culture of a pervasive belief’, in D. Jobling et al. (eds.),The Bible and the politics of exegesis. Essays in honor of Norman K. Gottwald on his sixty-fifth birthday, pp. 147–159, Pilgrim Press, Cleveland.

Elliott, J. H. 1991 ‘Temple versus Household in Luke-Acts: A Contrast in Social Institutions’, in J. H. Neyrey, The Social World of Luke-Acts, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers: 211-40 = Hervormde Teologiese Studies 247/1: 88-120.

Elliott, J. H. 1992 ‘Matthew 20:1-15: A Parable of Invidious Comparison and Evil Eye Accusation’, BTB 22: 52-65.

Elliott, J.H., 1992, ‘Matthew 20:1-15: A parable of invidious comparison and evil eye accusation’, Biblical Theology Bulletin 22(2), 52–65.

Elliott, J. H. 1993 What Is Social-Scientific Criticism? Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Elliott, J.H., 1994, ‘The evil eye and the sermon on the mount. Contours of a pervasive belief in social scientific perspective’,Biblical Interpretation 2(1), 51–84.

Elliott, J.H., 1993, What is social-scientific criticism?, Guides to biblical scholarship, New Testament series, Fortress, Minneapolis.

—— 1998 ‘Phases in the Social Formation of Early Christianity: From Faction to Sect. A Social-Scientific Perspective’, in Peder Borgem, Vernon K. Robbins, and David B. Gowler (eds.) Recruitment, Conquest, and Conflict: Strategies in Judaism, Early Christianity, and the Greco-Roman World, Emory Studies in Early Christianity 6. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Elliott, J.H., 2000, 1 Peter: A new translation with introduction and commentary, Anchor Bible 37B, Doubleday, Random House, New York.

Elliott, J.H., 2002, ‘Jesus was not an egalitarian. A critique of an anachronistic and idealist theory’, Biblical Theology Bulletin32(2), 75–91.

Elliott, J.H., 2003, ‘The Jesus movement was not egalitarian but family-oriented’, Biblical Interpretation 11(2), 173–210.

Elliott, J.H., 2005, ‘Lecture socioscientifique. Illustration par l’accusation du Mauvais Oeil en Galatie’, in A. Lacocque (ed.), Guide des nouvelles lectures de la Bible, pp. 141–167, Traduction de Jean-Pierre Prévost, Bayard Éditions, Paris.

Elliott, J.H., 2008a, ‘La crítica socio-cientifica: La configuración colectiva y cooperativa de un método’, in C. Bernabé & C. Gil (eds.), Reimaginando los orígenes del cristianismo. Relevancia social y ecclesial de los estudios sobre orígenes del cristianismo. Libro homenaje a Rafael Aguirre en su 65 compleaños, Agora 23, pp. 101–115, Editorial Verbo Divino, Estrella, Navarra.

Elliott, J.H., 2008b, ‘From social description to social-scientific criticism. The history of a society of biblical literature section 1973–2005’, Biblical Theology Bulletin 38(1), 26–36.